Hays High’s Western Athletic Conference opener against Liberal looked like a typical kind of WAC game to Indians coach Alex Hutchins.
“WAC games are usually kind of slow-paced, grit and grimy, almost football on a basketball court, so that’s kind of what we got," Hutchins said.
The Indians had no trouble succeeding in that style of game on Saturday, grinding out a 57-44 victory at Hays High.
"The guys did a good job of battling on defense tonight so it didn’t really matter that much when we had a long drought offensively," Hutchins said. "We were proud of that, and it’s something to build off, for sure.”
After a rough offensive start for both teams in the first four minutes, Hays High closed the first quarter on a 8-0 run to take a 13-5 lead, and the Indians kept Liberal at bay the rest of the way.
“We just picked up the intensity and stepped up and did what we had to do to get the lead,” junior guard T.J. Nunnery said.
The Indians (4-2, 1-0 WAC) held a 27-20 advantage at halftime and led by as many as 17 points (44-27) in the third quarter. Liberal never got closer than nine in the fourth.
“We went to more of a matchup zone to kind of muddy the decision-making for Liberal, and I thought that was effective initially,” Hutchins said.
Six-foot-5 sophomore Jace Linenberger enjoyed a breakout game for the Indians, scoring a game-high 18 points off the bench.
“It wasn’t a surprise to anybody on our team,” Hutchins said. “We’ve seen him do it a lot this summer, and we’ve seen it a lot in practice and in JV games. There’s been a lot of games already this year where he’s gotten great looks and shots we want him to shoot, and they just weren’t falling. He’s done a great job of continuing to battle and persist and keep his head up. It’s fun to see him kind of break through tonight.”
Nunnery finished with 16 points for the Indians and Carson Kieffer added 10.
Hutchins confirmed senior Trey Adams is no longer with the team.
Hunter Hatcher led Liberal with 13 while Alex Lopez had 12. The Redskins dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-1 in WAC play.
Liberal 53, Hays High 29
The unbeaten Liberal girls basketball team showed why it is one of the top contenders in Class 6A, locking down the Indians to move to 7-0.
Liberal led 13-4 at the end of the first quarter before breaking away to take a 34-8 lead into the break.
Katie Horyna led Redskins with 18 points while Machia Mullens added 12 and Aubrey Warden 11.
The Indians dropped to 1-5 and 0-1 in WAC play.
“Considering we couldn’t put the ball in the hole, the things that we could control tonight, I thought our effort was good,” Hays High coach Kyle Porter said. “Our response to adversity was good; we’re improving in that regard, and that’s got to be the foundation for anything moving forward that we’re going to want to do as a program.
“Any time you play a good team like Liberal you’re going to see the little things that you need to work on, and those were obviously evident tonight. We’re going to treat it like any other game, go back to work on Monday, and continue to address and work on those things and move forward as a basketball team.”
Tasiah Nunnery led the Indians with 11 points while Aleyia Ruder finished with nine.
Porter confirmed that senior Brooke Denning is no longer with the team.
The Indians will play host to Great Bend on Tuesday.